London voor Nederlanders

Ik krijg regelmatig de vraag: wat zijn je beste tips voor London van Nederlandse vrienden en kennissen, dus ik dacht ‘laat ik alles eens op een rijtje zetten’. Deze tips gaan ervan uit dat je van boeken, kleren, winkelen, museums en eten & drinken houdt en dat je waarschijnlijk al een paar keer in London bent geweest en de meest toeristische dingen al wel gezien hebt.

De basics 

Als je een smartphone hebt, download dan de Citymapper app (iOS en Android). Heel veel Londenaren gebruiken deze om uit te vogelen hoe je al wandelend, met de fiets, bus, metro, auto of taxi (of zelfs per jetpack) van A naar B komt.

Wandelen is vaak de leukste en soms zelfs de snelste manier om in centraal London te zien met voor mij de bus op nummer 2. De bus is makkelijker dan de meeste mensen denken, en voor korte afstanden vaak sneller dan de metro. Gebruik Citymapper om de makkelijkste route, lokale bushaltes en je eindhalte te vinden. Een Travelcard of een Oyster Card (een soort OV chipkaart) is de makkelijkste optie: kies de eerste als je geen plannen hebt om binnenkort nog een keer te komen, de tweede als je wel plannen hebt om vaker te komen.

De grote ketens qua koffie (Starbucks, Costa, Nero) en fast food (McD etc) hebben vaak gratis wifi, net zoals de meeste grote winkels.

Voorbereiding

Feest is nog het meest, wat komt of is geweest! Onder dat motto een aantal boeken die ik vaak gebruik en kan aanraden:

London Style Guide, een heerlijke snuffelgids met tips voor allerlei wijken in London, en die tips zijn heel erg goed; ook een heerlijk koffietafel boek om voor en na de tijd te lezen.

London Design Guide, wordt jaarlijks helemaal opnieuw uitgebracht, is een must voor iedereen die van design houdt, met veel leuke adresjes.

London Food Lover’s Guide, voor elke serieuze foodie, ingericht per cuisine, met korte uitleg en veel veel winkels.

De Time Out London is een gratis tijdschrift dat elke dinsdag uitkomt (kijk dinsdagochtends bij grote metrostations, daar wordt ‘ie gratis uitgedeeld), en de website voor London heeft alle up to date tips over restaurants, winkels (inclusief pop-ups en sample sales), museums & things to do etc.

De wekelijkse Le Cool London newsletter heeft tips voor uitjes, tentoonstellingen, muziek etc, alles nog cooler dan cool. De Londonist is een blog voor echte London-liefhebbers.

Winkelen

Regent Street is waarschijnlijk een van de beste winkelstraten van de wereld: er zit van alles op, en de laatste jaren zijn er veel interessante winkels bijgekomen. Een volledige lijst op de website, maar o.a. J. Crew, Uniqlo, COS, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Burberry, een hele grote H&M, natuurlijk de beroemdste Engelse speelgoedwinkel Hamleys (success, het is daar een gekkenhuis!), United Nude schoenen etc etc etc.

Vlakbij Regent Street is het mooiste warenhuis van heel London: Liberty. Yep, die van de Liberty print. Een harstikke mooi gebouw, met binnen een fantastisch assortiment sjaals, designer tassen en kleding, huiswaren, beauty, chocola en papierwaren. Een aanrader.

Oxford Street is de langste en grootste winkelstraat in London, ik ben er zelf niet zo weg van, behalve dan van twee winkels: Selfridges, weer een fantastisch warenhuis, met verdieping na verdieping heerlijke mode, lingerie, een mooie foodhall, en meer beauty dan iemand ooit nodig heeft. En ik ben ook dol op de grote John Lewis met in de kelder een Waitrose supermarkt, handig voor een flesje water en wat snel te eten.

Covent Garden is niet meer de toeristentrap die het ooit was, nu zitten er leuke restaurants in Covent Garden zelf, met dichtbij op Long Acre Stanfords de reisboekhandel, een Muji (een echte aanrader als je van Japans minimalistische dingen houdt), en een TK Maxx (een soort ramsj voor kleren, soms kun je er hele goede koopjes krijgen). Qua eten is Shake Shack een aanrader als je een snelle hap wilt maar iets beter dan McD, of Balthazar als je wilt lunchen/brunchen/dineren zoals de jet set, het is een klein stukje Amerikaans-Parijs in London.

Voor alle eten Japans (denk snoep, instant ramen, maar ook take away sushi) is de Japan Centre een must (op Shaftesbury Avenue, vlakbij Piccadilly Circus), Waterstones is mega groot op Piccadilly, en Foyles op Charing Cross Road is net een nieuw pand betrokken en is ook een heerlijke boekwinkel. De mooiste boekhandel is Daunt books op Marylebone High Street, een sjeike straat een paar minuten wandelen ten noorden van Selfridges.

Dover Street Market is absoluut geen markt, maar een designer clothing concept store. Als je van designer kleding houdt is dit je adres! Om de hoek hiervan is Bond Street, waar alle grote designer en juweliersmerken hun winkels hebben.

Musea

De meeste grote musea zijn gratis en mijn favorieten zijn (in willekeurige volgorde): British Museum, de National Gallery, het Victoria and Albert, Science Museum, en de Natural History Museum. Voor speciale tentoonstellingen moet je vaak betalen, maar de musea zelf zijn gratis. Het Sir John Soane museum is een fantastisch klein museum, niet gratis maar heel erg de moeite waard. De Tower of London is ook het geld waard: hier ligt zoveel geschiedenis van London EN ze hebben de kroonjuwelen. Tip: elk uur zijn er gratis rondleidingen van een echte Beefeater.

Koffie

London is mega-serieus qua koffie momenteel. Mijn favoriet is Timberyard nabij Old Street (nu ook vlakbij Covent Garden EN ze hebben ook heerlijke thee en gebakjes), maar overal zijn heerlijke stekjes te vinden, vaak met wifi. Hier is een overzicht op London Best Coffee.

Eten

Overal in London vind je Pret-a-Manger, EAT, POD en Apostrophe waar je voor redelijk weinig geld een sandwich en wat te drinken kunt halen. Ook vind je steeds meer Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s en Waitroses, supermarkten die ook goed zorgen voor de lunch.

Als je van Japans eten houdt, is Koya een aanrader; Abeno en zuster restaurant Abeno Too, vlakbij Leicester Square hebben heerlijk okonomiyaki (een soort pannenkoek); als je van ramen houdt zijn Shoryu (eentje zit dichtbij het Japan Centre), Kanada-ya en Ippudo aanraders.

Hawksmoor is voor echte vleesliefhebbers, The Delaunay is een van de beste en meest populaire plekken voor ontbijt en brunch (niet goedkoop, maar het helemaal waard, vlakbij Covent Garden), Wahaca (oa dichtbij Covent Garden) heeft goed en redelijk geprijsd voor Londonse begrippen dan Mexicaans eten.

Donderdag/Vrijdag/Zaterdag is Borough Market vlakbij London Bridge een heerlijke plek om rond te struinen (kom vroeg, rond 9 uur, want het wordt heel druk rond 11 uur), en voor de iets meer avontuurlijker persoon is er ook Brixton Market, met heel heel veel lekker eten.

Twee dingen die goed zijn om te weten: het is heel normaal in London om te wachten in een rij tot er een tafel vrijkomt als je geen reservering hebt gemaakt, vaak wordt het wachten gebruikt om alvast even bij te kletsen. Ook wordt er bijna altijd verwacht dat je bij de deur wacht als je ergens binnenkomt tot iemand van de staf je een tafel aanwijst.

Fringe benefits

1217219024_84e74c1d3aSometimes the big things in life come with unexpected smaller side-effects. Take my job, located in between Southwark and London Bridge. It’s a great location, close to the river, but most of all, close to Borough Market which is an unintended, but very welcome side effect. Every Friday I roam the market at lunchtime (or preferably slightly later when it’s less busy). I know there’s a lot that true-blue foodies can say about Borough Market (it’s expensive, it’s snobbish at times, overcrowded with tourists at times), but I still love it passionately. I love the sights and sounds, the wonderful products (Polish sausages, chocolate and real truffles, more butter you can swing a stick at, meat (it’s the rabbit season at the mo’), scallops, tomatoes, garlic, jams, and of course my usual lunch: German Bratwurst (with curry gewurz ketchup in my case, reminds me of home), and a ton more foodie-goodies I’m forgetting to mention. Reading a book this morning (Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World) where the author talks about the gift economy reminded me of another reason why I love the market: because every purchase is a little bit of a gift. It’s much more human buying something off a vendor of the market than in the anonymous supermarket. You chat, you talk about the produce, you banter, and occasionally you haggle. Try that at Tesco. Buying something off the market feels like a gift, not a chore. It’s something you want to do, rarely something you need to do. Which as soon as I wrote it down made me feel snobbish. I give up, no more excuses or explanations. I just love the place.

Another book which was delivered by my friendly Amazon delivery guy was A Technique for Producing Ideas, which yielded some useful advice for people working in advertising, which I think has a relevance far beyond advertising too:
‘This then is the whole process or method by which ideas are produced:
First, the gathering of raw materials — both the materials of your immediate problem and he materials which come from a constant enrichment of your store of general knowledge.
Second, the working over of these materials in your mind.
Third, the incubating stage, where you let something beside the conscious mind do the work of synthesis.
Fourth, the actual birth of the Idea — the ‘Eureka! I have it!’ stage.
And fifth, the final shaping and development of the idea to practical usefulness.

The principle of constantly expanding your experience, both personally and vicariously, does matter tremendously in any idea-producing job.’

[note: the above image is of my friendly Bratwurst guy, but not at Borough, he’s at the Covent Garden Night Market which was held in August.]

Of friezes and tattoos

1558798021_ea2385c488After a nice week at work (we pitched on Monday and found out on Thursday we won the job! I can’t out of reasons of confidentiality say who the client is, but I’m very very excited!!!), it was time to let my hair down on the weekend a bit. What better than some real art and fake tattoos?

I went to the Frieze Art Fair with two friends and found it a bewildering experience (much like the last time I went). I appreciate art most when there’s an element of the artisinal, of skill, in there. Something that I couldn’t do. Or think I could do. And to be honest, I’m not clever enough for some of the art at the Frieze. The best part for me was looking at the people that were there, what they are wearing, eavesdropping on their conversations.

After trekking home, going for a run, a quick shower and change of clothes it was off to Regent’s Park again, this time for Tattoo (see my account of my first ever Tattoo here) which is a celebration of all the diversity at LBS held annually and which comes with a lot of gratuitous fake tattoos. I missed last year’s (that and missing the Santa pub crawl were my biggest regrets of going on exchange in autumn) and wasn’t going to go this year. I’m an alumn now, feel I should leave the partying to the new batch. But Wince, bless his heart, thought otherwise and convinced me to come and boy was I glad I came. We had a blast, there were a good number of 2007s there, it was great to see some of my 2008 friends and make a whole bunch of new 2009 acquaintances. I met the guy who writes this blog (check it out if you know anyone that knows anyone that knows anyone that knows Steve Jobs please!) and promised I’d put a plug in for it, here you go.

Now, where’s my nailpolish remover…if you’ll excuse me, I need to remove a few tattoos :-)

This is

1204322427_68a8d49f33… arguably one of the best sandwiches money can buy. At least in London (I not-so-secretly still pine for (after?) the wonderful Hein Post sandwiches I used to eat in Groningen… the best I’ve ever had. Ever. Those sandwiches alone are almost enough reason to want to move there. That and the fact that some of my good friends live there. And it’s a very cool city. With great shopping. And the fabulous Noorderlicht photography festival. I just wish it wasn’t miles from everything. Sigh. Who knows. Maybe one day.). This, my dear readers, is the B’s Knees sandwich from a wonderful place called Amano, with two locations on the South Bank (I prefer the one next to Clink Prison over the one behind the Tate Modern, but both serve yummy sandwiches and cakes and a world of other goodies). Well worth a try if you’re looking for a nice place to have lunch or drinks.

After this short commercial break (unpaid though, no money or other goods exchanged hands for this plug) now back to regular programming. Work’s good. Life’s good. Attended an Info Session this past Monday at LBS, my first one as an alumna, and spoke to a bunch of eager potential MBA2010’s (*waving*). Wow. 2010’s. I am getting old!

Talking about info sessions, if there’s any Dutch people reading this, or people based in NL, you might be interested in a MBA fair that will held in A’dam this coming September (don’t worry, I won’t be attending). Check it out here, it looks like a great opportunity to talk to some people at top MBA programs and find out more about them. And I cannot urge anyone who’s interested in doing an MBA enough to try and go to as many of these information-gathering opportunities as you can possibly stomach, and find out as much as you can about any and every school you’re interested in.

Hmmm. This whole post is turning into a bit of a plug for this, that and the other. Let me add one more plug, or not really, since you can’t go anymore since the exhibit ended. Went to the Anthony Gormley exhibit at the Hayward Gallery on Sunday which was very interesting. I liked some of his work (like the lifesize statues of himself that are scattered on the top of buildings all around the Hayward Gallery, see also the photo in the previous post), it made me think and write, but was puzzled or even freaked out by some of his other work (lifesize casts of bodies hung upside down from the ceiling).

I’m too lazy to think of a title

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[Part of this post was written on Monday, right before our internet connection at home became possessed and we’ve been living with its temperamental whims all week. It seems fine now.]

I’ve just come back from a short weekend trip over to NL to celebrate my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary (happy anniversary mum and dad!), which was a blast. We had a cycle tour round Amsterdam (which none of us know very well, we’re not from there. Please don’t ask me next time you see me. Yes I am from NL. No I’m not from Amsterdam. And hardly know anything about it. Which is why we took a guided tour.). Had a lovely dinner, hung out, celebrated. Life is very good!

On my way out I picked up a copy of Monocle magazine (hat tip to mr NW who brought it to my attention), which although ultra-yuppie-hipper-than-thou, something which I don’t think I am at all, I liked a lot. Find out more here [link via the excellent Putting People First].

On a Grolsch update: they’re going to do some cool stuff at the Lowlands Festival this summer. They’re kitting out some festival-goers with an RFID armtag, and there will be camera crews roaming around. If you, the one wearing the armband, feel like being filmed, you hail them, they scan your band and they shoot whatever’s happening. The whole thing will then be uploaded to a website. If you can read Dutch, read all about it here.

[now back to Friday night again, this is some original content written on the day that I’m posting this]
Wow, what a week it’s been. With goodbyes, reunions. dinners, Proms (last night, very good) and of course work it’s been packed. Something no one warned me about, and I should’ve known this but hadn’t realized: a lot of people are saying goodbye because they’ll be moving elsewhere to work. And I’m the worst at saying goodbye. Ever. Dunno why, but I hate them. I’m not good at them, I don’t like ‘em. That’s not true. I stink at them. My own and even more so other people’s.

I’ve been trying to think about what to say about my job (assuming some of you, and I’m pointing at you Rogier, might be curious). I haven’t talked to my bosses about the blog, so I won’t mention any names. However, I feel comfortable saying that I’m working for a branding and design consultancy, a small and entrepreneurial one (just the way I like my employers) with cool offices south of the river close to both here (where I saw this today) and here and doing some amazingly good work (well, I would say that, wouldn’t I ;- ehm, I didn’t mean that I do amazingly good work, but the company does). And I’m really liking it. It’s exactly what I had dreamed of doing post MBA. And of course being a good design company, they have Macs, so my office laptop is a nice and shiny 17inch Powerbook.

Photo at the top taken on my way home from work, curiously enough in the same location as this one. Southwark is a bit of a weird neighbourhood ;-)

My head’s too big

829289279_d54dc1151b Wow, what a week this has been. Since the last I had a chat, a lot has happened.

I’ve been to the Proms for the first time in my life (see pic left) and it was absolutely awesome. It was French Baroque, and I never knew it, but that’s very good music! Check out what I heard and saw here. [edit: after I finished writing this, I read this piece in the Guardian, which is very similar to what I’ve been going through in terms of starting to appreciate classical music more. Scroll through to two-thirds of the way down and there’s mention of the Prom I went to too. Good to read I’m not the only one who enjoyed my ears out! That’s not an expression I think. But it should be.]

I ran a 10k and live to tell the tale (no, don’t ask me for my time, suffice it to say that three guys disguised as taps finished shortly before me. And man did my legs hurt on Monday and Tuesday, that will teach me to stop training 3 weeks before the race). I want to run another one. And train better for it.

I went to the New Designers’ show and was bowled over by the quality and most of all by the passion of the young lads and ladies.

I said goodbye to yet another friend who is moving countries. I don’t like it when friends move countries I’ve decided. And that sucks, because over the next few weeks a few more of my friends will be moving (most notably Al and his mrs).

I met some of the Starting Bloc folks who were on LBS campus these past few days. Wow. They’re so passionate and friendly and fun to talk to!

I worked a whole workweek. It’s a bit weird being back at work again. I love my job, but am still a teeny bit freaked out by sitting in the same place for 5 days a week. Getting used to it though.

I went and had passport photos taken after which I trekked to the Dutch embassy to apply for a new passport, only to be told that my head was 1 milimeter too big. Sigh. That’s the second time in a couple of months someone thinks my head’s too big! (I was trying to find the original post where my mum measured my head for graduation, but can’t find it now).

I spent today cheering on a friend for her 5K (go Kim!) and then went on a photosafari with a friend which reminded me how much I miss roaming out and about with my camera.

I realised that I miss living in the Netherlands. Lord knows why this realisation dawned on me this week. Perhaps it was the trip to the Dutch embassy. Or the upcoming quick trip to NL to celebrate my parent’s wedding anniversary. Anyway. I miss it. I miss cycling to the Albert Heijn for groceries, shopping at the HEMA and Bijenkorf, and being able to drive to my parents to see them or my popping up to see my friends. I miss it. A lot.

I realised also (and this is totally contrary to the previous one) that I absolutely love living in London. From Sunday papers to afternoon tea, to the wonderful museums and architecture, to riding at the top on a bus through central London, I do seriously love this city.

I forgot to mention in the past weeks that I’ve also been to the How We Are exhibit at the Tate Britain which was very good (although the audioguide was weak, the photos were stunning), and I saw some of the Grand Tour paintings (both of these were on my cultural to do list).

I just realised that all of these start with an I. Ouch. Sorry.

Life as an alumn is so far so good, really. It still hasn’t dawned on me that my weekends are mine to do with what I please again without feeling like I should be finishing up a project. And that I no longer have a locker at LBS to stuff my gym shoes in. But other than that, no big changes just yet.

Thanks for all the comments on the blog, I finally managed to have a look and respond to them. That’s what you get with mobile blogging: I don’t even need my laptop to blog so get lazy about responding.

Wow

Chocolate as far as the eye reaches… really, it doesn’t get any better than this in a supermarket ;-) I went to the new Whole Foods store in Kensington and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a temple of food (and I mean a temple… they’re very religious about their food), and I liked it better than the New York store I used to go to, although I struggle to say why. I liked the muesli bar where you can mix your own muesli. And the large variety of chocolate they sell.

This is the last week of term. My last term. Sigh. One more class to go, this Saturday, and then that’s it. Well, almost. I’m still working on a extra curricular project. And working as a student ambassador (I got to call new R4 admits today and welcome them to the School, which was a lot of fun). And there’s a bunch of farewell dinners and the last Sundowners this Thursday. And there’s Capstone week next week, where we look back on the whole course and are back in our original first year first term streams (go stream D!). And there’s there graduation. And the summer ball. And we need to distribute the yearbook. OK, so I’ve still got some stuff on my plate.

On the street today

547627149_bf9bfd2eeaWalking around London Bridge this morning and saw this. Nice. I wonder who made it? I think it’s gorgeous.

With two weeks left in this term, it feels like I’m going to finish my MBA with a bang and in a whirlwind. Which is kinda nice, because that’s what most of the rest of it was too for me! The yearbook, if all went well, is at the printer’s now, the class gift is still going on but less of a concern of me personally. What’s left is a few days in NL over the weekend to celebrate Father’s Day, catch up with my parents and get a haircut (I desperately need one); some more assignments for CPM which I’ve fallen behind on and then some more work on a part-time project I’m working on. And pick up in earnest the 10k training schedule. Get ready for graduation. Hang out as much as I can with my friends who are moving abroad post-graduation. And enjoy the sunshine. And try and fit in some cultural stuff. And figure out life-after-the-MBA.

Some things that I’m trying to make a little time for in the next few weeks:
The Grand Tour. The National Gallery has put up an outdoor exhibition of paintings in London’s West End, with an MP3 audio guide and it sounds amazing. I have a soft spot for the concept of a Grand Tour, it’s one of my areas of book-collecting. I’ll try and explore soon and will report back if I do.
The second thing is the How Are We? Photographing Britain exhibit at the Tate Britain that sounds interesting. And finally, Whole Foods opened a London branch, which I’ve heard is amazing. And last but not least: this Saturday I’m off to Interesting2007, which promises to be interesting (like it says on the tin, really!).

Several people have asked me what will happen to this blog post-graduation and to be honest, I don’t know yet. I never consciously thought about what to write (except for in the very beginning), it happened to be mostly MBA related because that was what was happening in my life. And I seem to still have something to write about now. So for now I suspect I might just trundle along as I have and see where I end up. On that note, time to head to the gym and get my running b*tt in gear. 

It’s spreading like wildfire

This t-shirt is spreading like wildfire at LBS, this is the second person wearing it :-)

These past few days have been… ehm… interesting. I visited the largest Hindu temple outside India (which is in Neasden, north west London, see picture, can highly recommend, I was very impressed), tested a computer simulation program for a prof at LBS, ironed out problems and outstanding items surrounding the yearbook, catch up with friends (hi Farhan!), become nostalgic about going to miss LBS, kicking myself for not sorting out my life yet followed by trying to sort out my life, working on my CPM homework. Oh, and trying to enjoy the lovely weather we’ve been having. And trying not to get buried in an avalanche of email that for some strange reason hit my emailbox in the past two days. And hearing complaints about not writing longer blog entries. I think it’s the phone. A picture is worth a thousand words. Or maybe I’m just too lazy. Or mentally-elsewhere-occupied to string together more than one paragraph. 3 more weeks in the MBA and I’m trying to squeeze it for everything that’s in there.

There’s a bunch of stuff in the pipeline for this blog, some wisdom, some lessons learnt etc. To follow when life is slightly quieter than this.

Holiday

Even this over-zealous MBA student needs a break from the MBA every now and again and what better way than to celebrate a mini-one-day holiday in my own lovely London? I woke up, pottered around for a bit, then headed over to the V&A to check out their Surrealism exhibit, which I liked after a rocky start. Once you walk in, you’re plunged headfirst into surrealism, and for someone like me who only really knew Dali and Magritte a little, it was a bit confusing. I decided to lean into it though, instead of getting frustrated and I ended up enjoying the exhibit a lot especially the furniture and ballet sections.

After buying some postcards (I have a thing for museumshops and the one at the V&A is one of the best and most imaginative I’ve seen) I headed over to Harrods, tourist destination extraordinaire. Their foodhalls are some of the best in London, and I got some lunch, wandered into Hyde Park and had a lovely picknick. Read John Maeda’s Laws of Simplicity which I enjoyed tremendously (read it if you’re interested in design, you won’t regret it), worked on my tan, and then headed over to Oxford Street to check out Primark. Ever since it opened a little while ago, there’s been a lot of hooha about it and I wanted to see it for myself. Oh my word. It’s definitely a retail phenomenon, even though it isn’t my taste. It was interesting to see people drag baskets of clothes around as if they were giving them away for free and most weirdly: there was an endless line in front of the changing rooms, with dresses for £8, I would take a gamble and not wait 30 minutes in line to try it on I guess…

Tomorrow it’s back to MBA reality with the kick off of the class gift campaign, CPM class and yearbook preparations.

Face of Fashion

Exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery
Exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. It was good. Not mind-blowingingly awesome, but pretty good and well worth the effort.

[edit: So I thought about this exhibit some more. There were a lot more women than men visiting the exhibit. Is it art or advertising? Or both? This was my favourite photographer. But I also like this guy’s photos a lot. The National Portrait Gallery rocks. Listen to the exhibit here. If you want to see it, hurry, Face of Fashion closes May 28th.]